Stanislas Wawrinka has beaten Roger Federer 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 to win the Monte Carlo title. It is the Swiss No. 1’s first ATP 1000 title, his seventh career trophy and his first victory over Federer since he beat him in straight sets at the Monte Carlo Country Club in 2009.
That year Roger Federer went on to win the French Open, his sole victory in Paris, and so he may look on the defeat as a promising omen. However, if Wawrinka can bring the confident shot-making and clinical finishing he displayed in the Monte Carlo final to Roland Garros, he might very well get the better of Federer there, too.
It was Federer who started the stronger of the two in the first all-Swiss final since 2000. Inspired by his defeat of Novak Djokovic in the semis, and aware that he was facing someone he had beaten 12 times and lost to only once, Federer broke Wawrinka at 2-2 as Wawrinka made too many unforced errors, a backhand long giving away the break.
But the errors were forced a little, too. Federer was in form, his shot-making and consistency combining to put pressure on his opponent. Pressure that went on top of the pressure already on Wawrinka to prove he was the rightful Swiss No. 1. The world No. 3 is the Australian Open Champion and has wins over Djokovic and Nadal the last year, feats Federer, who has not won a Major since Wimbledon 2012, cannot boast of over the past 12 months.
But this season, Federer has been climbing right back up to the top of the game, moving up to fourth in the rankings after dropping to eighth, beating Djokovic twice, and making the finals of Indian Wells. And that form was still going strong as he took the first set against Wawrinka 6-4.
One set away from his first Monte Carlo title, Federer then faltered. He dropped his serve to go down 0-2. He managed to get back on serve immediately, but Wawrinka was finding the game that helped him beat Ferrer in straights in the semis and as Wawrinka’s serve, shot-making and baseline game came together, he took Federer to a tiebreaker and won it 7-5.
The second set his, an inspired Wawrinka ran away with the third, breaking Federer twice and then serving out for the match at 5-2. Wawrinka did not show any nerves as he strutted out of his opponent’s shadow once and for all.
Wawrinka’s win comes after a disappointing North American hard court swing. The red clay of Monte Carlo has, however, brought Wawrinka out of that mini-slump. Wawrinka has all the time in the world on the red stuff to set up his shots and show-off the flair which has made him a firm fan favorite.
Wawrinka’s Monte-Carlo victory sets him up nicely for the rest of the clay season. The surface is said to be the most similar one to Roland Garros, and Wawrinka, who has had much success on red clay, winning Oeiras last season, making the Italian Open final in ’08, and the Madrid final and the last eight of Roland Garros last year, has all the tools to make a strong run at this year’s French Open. And should he win, a young generation might answer Wawrinka and not Federer when asked who Switzerland’s pre-eminent tennis star is.
Commentary by Christian Deverille